Pierce to forgo option
Wizards forward becomes free agent after bypassing $5.5 million player option.
Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce has decided to play next season but is expected to bypass his $5.5 million player option, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. The decision, which is due by the end of the month, would make Pierce a free agent for the second straight year.
Opting out opens the possibility of Pierce playing his 18th season elsewhere but does not eliminate the prospect of his playing for Washington. Pierce could choose to re-sign.
The most probable destination other than D.C. would be to go home to play for the Los Angeles Clippers and reunite with Doc Rivers, his coach for nine seasons with the Boston Celtics. Los Angeles has limited salary cap flexibility and likely will be able to offer Pierce, 37, only the midlevel exception of $3.37 million.
Pierce nearly joined the Clippers last summer, but Rivers, also the organization’s president of basketball operations, elected to give the Clippers’ entire midlevel exception to center Spencer Hawes. The move was a debacle, and Hawes, along with Matt Barnes, was traded to the Charlotte Hornets for swingman Lance Stephenson last week. Rivers then revealed he prefers Stephenson coming off the bench and is in the market for a starting small forward.
Pierce averaged career lows in points (11.2) and minutes (26.2) and was a defensive liability at times in a diminished role last season, but he provided the leadership the Wizards sought and became a fan favorite.
Logging more minutes at power forward, Pierce averaged 14.6 points in 29.8 minutes in 10 playoff games and nailed a few clutch shots, including the gamewinning buzzer beater in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Atlanta.
He nearly extended Washington’s season-ending Game 6 loss with a three-pointer at the buzzer, but the basket did not count.
That may be his final act with the Wizards.
“I’m just thankful I was able to have an influence on this group, give something to them hopefully,” Pierce said after the Game 6 loss.
“Whether I’m here next year or I’mnot, I’ve left something here with these young guys that they can carry on the rest of their career— understanding what it’s like to be a pro, understanding what it’s going to take to take your game and your career to the next level. Hopefully that’s something I’ve given them, and they understand it and move forward with it.”